In this post from our ‘Privacy in focus’ blog series we discuss notice and consent — key cornerstones of privacy regulation both in Australia and around the globe — and key challenges in how these concepts operate to protect privacy.
From the 22 questions on notice, consent, and use and disclosure in the Privacy Act issues paper, there is one underlying question: Who should bear responsibility for safeguarding individuals’ privacy?
In this post from our ‘Privacy in focus’ blog series, we explore the key voices and perspectives shaping the review of the Privacy Act.
If you want to know where the review of the Privacy Act is going to land, the first question to ask is ‘who’s in the room’.
That’s why, in this post on the Privacy Act review, we’ve analysed public submissions in response to the Government’s issues paper to see what they reveal about the perspectives of interest groups, and how this might shape the review process.
It’s loud in here
There are 154 submissions published on the Attorney General’s website, totalling 2,103 pages by our count. That’s quite a few by comparison with other consultation processes. The ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry issues paper only attracted 76 submissions.
More than half of all submissions come from private companies (around 30%) and industry bodies or professional associations (around 23%). Within this segment, a wide range of industries are represented – it really is a cross section of the economy. Contributions from the Shopping Centre Council of Australia, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries might have been surprising a few years ago. Today their presence is a testament to how central data has become in our lives.
The remaining submissions come from academics and research centres (around 16%), various government entities (around 13%), charities and advocacy groups (around 10%) and individuals (around 7%).
Reading the room
There are so many issues and so many differing interests and perspectives that it is difficult to draw many clear through-lines. By our rough (and inevitably subjective) count:
A little over 50% of all submissions are broadly in support of stronger privacy protections.
Around 20% advocate little or no change to the current regime.
The remainder are either explicitly neutral, focus on a specific issue or provide commentary on a specific industry without taking a clear position.
Only a small handful of submissions advocate for weaker protections.
The role of consent will be another area of contention. A large number of submissions have raised concerns about the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry recommendations for enhanced consent requirements. Some note the failure of the notice and consent model as a whole and emphasise the need for additional controls on how organisations use data (see particularly the Consumer Policy Research Centre and the Association for data-driven marketing and advertising). Others emphasise the dangers of consent fatigue and the need for an alternative basis for processing (see e.g., Facebook).
Finding your friends – opposing unnecessary regulation
As one might expect, submissions from industry are more likely to oppose or raise concerns about higher regulatory standards. Those worried about the potential costs of reform include:
Our takeaway is that there are substantially more voices in favour of reform than for the status quo. Add that to the overwhelming public support for stronger privacy protections (83% of Australians surveyed by OAIC saying they would like the government to do more to protect the privacy of their data) and it looks like there will be real pressure on the government to deliver meaningful reform.
Of course, the issues paper is just the beginning, and we’ve just scratched the surface here. So why not stay tuned while we all wait for the discussion paper? In our next edition, we’ll take a deep dive into the definition of personal information.